Friday, June 01, 2007
The Rhythmic Clapping had yet to die down--and the ballgame had been over for nearly five minutes. Few seemed really ready to leave. Our Washington Nationals were celebrating on the field--their fans enjoying the moment in the stands. Big Jon Rauch was fist pumping himself and his teammates. Ronnie Belliard was being mobbed by everyone else. Dimitri Young was smiling SO WIDE--you could see his pearly white teeth--a good 25 rows from the field, standing in Section 320. Experience won tonight.
There was so much good cheer--you would have thought Our Washington Nationals had just won some sort of title. But, what they had accomplished was ONE ROUSING VICTORY. A seemingly sure win--taken away by a baseball hitting an Umpire in the foot in the sixth inning. A triumph nearly lost in the top of the 10th--before "THE WOOKIE" wiggled out of one SERIOUS JAM. A Curly "W" finally put in the books in a thrilling bottom of the 10th.
For the first time in seven appearances at RFK Stadium--The San Diego Padres LOST A BASEBALL GAME this first day of June. A HOT & HUMID EVENING that featured Our Washington Nationals fighting deep into the night to pull out a 4-3 victory before 22,354 very vocal fans. This was an excellent ballgame. Alot of hits--26 in all, but only 4 walks and not a single error. If you like to see the offense fill up bases and defense keeping most everyone of those runners from scoring--this was your GAME OF THE YEAR.
And, The African Queen had the ENTIRE THIRD BASE SIDE OF RFK STADIUM pounding away on empty beer bottles in celebration. Her beer bottles tonight, provided by Budweiser. The sound SO LOUD during the decisive bottom of the 10th--Colleen, sitting in the Field Box, 10 rows from the Nats On Deck Circle, told us THE NOISE WAS DEAFENING!! And, when "The Guz" lofted a clean soft liner to left, with one out off Submarine Pitcher Cla Meredith--the crowd began to erupt. A throng that burst out when Ryan Zimmerman followed with a first pitch slicer to right--and clapped their hands mightily when Cristian Guzman RAN HARD all the way to third base. Those Hands of Our Nationals MANY FANS now standing, the Rhythmic Clapping beginning --EVERYONE REALIZING--THIS BALLGAME WAS AT HAND!!
Our Manager Manny Acta did what any good manager would do now--he sent A VETERAN PLAYER--one with World Series Experience (his best choice) to the plate with the game on the line--one, Ronnie Belliard. How things have changed since early April. No Longer inexperienced players like Josh Wilson or Michael Restovich. Now--true professional hitters. Batters that can respond under pressure. Number 10 slowly strolled to the plate, with confidence. Not a sole sitting at RFK Stadium. What's so special about MY LIFELONG BALLPARK on East Capitol Street is that IT CAN ROCK!! I've said it before and I will declare it for the remainder of my life. RFK STADIUM has a life of its own. At 10:04 PM on June 1st, 2007--was it ever alive. The noise echoing and vibrating. Padres Pitcher--Cla Meredith really had no chance.
Number 10 took ball one. The Rhythmic Clapping continuing. As Meredith made, a slow the game down pickoff attempt to first base for Ryan Zimmerman-I turned to The African Queen and said: "People can say all they want about Washington Baseball--this is a ton of fun. How can anyone not enjoy this."
Ronnie Belliard must have been listening to me. On Meredith's 8th pitch of the inning and FINAL TOSS of this game--Belliard would softly ground to the hole between first and second. Padres' Second Baseman Marcus Giles eventually reached the baseball. All he really could do was Toss The Ball in the air, in almost celebratory style. No way--"The Guz" does not score. Guzman strolled across home plate with the winning run. The Nats Faithful taking that CELEBRATORY TOSS by Giles to Stomp and Cheer a fine Win!! Bang!!! Zoom!! went the Fireworks!! The Celebration was on--The Reception just beginning for Curly "W" Number 23.
Really, this was fun. But, in the top of the 10th, it looked like a sure loss. Jon Rauch would walk Adrian Gonzalez on a full count. You could see the frustration on Our Number 51. He was pissed. Rauch knew he had started some trouble. Although he would strike out the free swinging Mike Cameron--his situation got a whole lot worse when San Diego's next batter, Josh Bard (4-5 tonight with 2 RBI) would ground a roller up the middle. Neither Guzman or FLop could decide who would take it. In this situation SOMEONE HAS TO DIVE FOR THE BALL. Yet, undecided and unsure ruled--the baseball rolled into centerfield. Gonzalez trotted into third base. RallyTimeRichard and I JUST INCREDULOUS. Yes, Bard deserved a single. Felipe Lopez or "THE GUZ" though needed to lay out for that one--THE GAME WAS ON THE LINE. Come on GUYS!!
Fortunately, one of biggest journeyman swingers in the game-Russell Branyan was next. "The Wookie" bore down striking him out on five pitches. You could feel the sense of relief throughout the stadium. Just one more out--and Our Washington Nationals had survived. Padres Manager Bud Black sent pinch hitter, Geoff Blum to the plate. Another journeyman player, well known for hitting a World Series Winning Home Run for The Chicago White Sox just two years ago. Blum, a one time TOP MONTREAL EXPOS PROSPECT, that never panned out.
BangTheDrum Natly was pounding down his heart palpitations. Geoff Blum is just the type of player that beats you. But, not tonight. Rauch would throw NOTHING BUT STRIKES. And, with an 0-2 count--handcuffed Geoff, who grounded to Robert Fick at first for the crucial third out--setting up the game winning last half of the 10th. Jon Fist Pumping in jubilation. He well knew, that after his struggles over the past few weeks--his control was back--as well as--his confidence. A BIG 10th INNING for BIG JON RAUCH.
A 10th inning none of us would have experienced, if Second Base Umpire Bob Davidson had not got in the way of a batted ball. His intervention--A GAME CHANGER.
With the score 3-2 Washington in the top of the 6th--Winston Abreu was on the mound in relief of Matt Chico. One run was already in on a Gonzalez Double and Josh Bard Double and Russell Branyan walk. Winston was able to retire Hiram Boccachica on a measly pop in foul territory to Dimitri Young. But, Former National Terrmel Sledge would provide that game changing moment. On a 1-1 count with two outs--Sledge (who knocked the very first Home Run in Washington Nationals History) stroked a hard grounder up the middle, toward the second base side of the bag. FLop was ranging to his right and seemed to be in position to make the play. Umpire Davidson could not get out of the way. The baseball hitting his left leg and caroming into right field. Josh Bard scored the game tying run. You could hear the frustration of fans throughout the park. Many raising their hands in disgust. Could it be possible? Our Washington Nationals would lose ON A FLUKE!!
Yeah, you bet--it was indeed possible.
Fortunately--Winston Abreu retired Padres Pitcher Jake Peavy to end the threat. And until the conclusive 10th--no one really threatened again. San Diego's Top Performer--Peavy--would last through 7 innings. Heath Bell would get The Padres to the 10th. "Everyday" Saul Rivera would pitch two solid relief innings for Washington. Chad Cordero was able to hand the ball over to Rauch--setting up the climax. Cordero has now pitched 10 straight scoreless innings. From that point--the excitement took over--a thrilling win--in a baseball game Our Washington Nationals could easily have lost. A Victory appreciated by many at RFK STADIUM TONIGHT. A Triumph that builds team character. An Achievement rewarded for experience. This win was not lucky--it was earned.
Just a GREAT GAME to watch.
Game Notes & Highlights:
What in the world is DIMITRI YOUNG EATING!! 4 for 4 again tonight--8 hits in 8 straight at-bats. His batting average at .327 with two more RBI's tonight. When the "Big Dog" was taken out for a pinch runner in the 8th inning--Young received a WELL DESERVED STANDING OVATION. Its always exciting to see a player turn himself around. Team President Stan Kasten told me tonight that Dimitri is a HUGE CLUBHOUSE LEADER. His presense and humor well received and enjoyed. His addition to Our Nationals Lineup--not to be overlooked (that from Our President folks). Dimitri so hot right now--he made two fine running catches in foul territory tonight at first base. Really, who could believe that. When you're HOT, you're Hot!!
Guzman continues to be one fabulous base runner. Not only did he score tonight's game winning run--he made some excellent base running decisions this evening. In the first, after reaching on a shot back to the mound off Peavy. "The Guz" would flat out FLY around the bases on a Ryan Zimmerman double down the left field line that Padres Leftfielder Sledge had trouble picking up. With Nationals Third Base Coach Tim Tolman attempting to stop Cristian at third--Guzman was having none of that--seeing the play in the corner by Sledge--Number 15 motored all the way home--just beating the relay throw by Kahlil Greene. "The Guz" slapping his hand down on the plate in his patented sliding style for run number one tonight. RallyTimeRichard looked at me in amazement. Guzman was FLYING. What a baserunner--he's terrific. RallyTime stating: "There was no way he's stopping rounding third!" My reply: "He was moving so fast, if he stopped, he would have broken his leg!!" Everyone laughed. It might have been true.
Then, after singling to right and stealing second base. Cristian would score on another single to center by Dimitri Young.
Guzman would score 3 runs tonight--slap four hits--and hold on to your seats--he is now hitting .316!!! Yes, .316!! that is not a misprint. "The Guz" single in the 5th was his 1,000 career Major League hit.
For the second time this season--Our Washington Nationals DID NOT lose to one of MLB's finest pitchers. Jake Peavy came into tonights game with a 7-1 record. That sole loss to Washington. Jake was not involved with the decision--but still--Our Nats won another game this fine pitcher started.
Matt Chico-was his usual learn on the job training self. 7 Hits, 2 walks--Manny Acta tried to get him through 6 complete. But, Number 47 just ran out of gas. Our Work in Progress Starter continues to hang in there. Never superlative--but always mostly effective enough. Its stunning he's done so well, so far--considering how this starting pitching staff is in constant revamp mode.
When Hiram Boccachica faced Matt Chico tonight--in Section 320 we got a kick out of "CHICA" facing "CHICO" It just seemed funny to us.
In the top of the 9th-Terrmel Sledge lofted a deep fly to left--at the wall--My Main Main!! Ryan Church made a fine leaping catch on the track--at the wall base to retire his former teammate. It was The Defensive Play of This Game. If Terrmel reaches base on this fly--this game most likely over--San Diego Wins.
In the bottom of the 9th-Robert Fick made a mind boggling base running error. With two outs, Fick on first with a single--FLop had a 2-0 count. With Heath Bell in the stretch on the mound--Robert inexplicably took off. Bell just stepped off the mound and easily tossed to Greene standing on second base for the final out of the inning. The Boos were out in Chorus. What in the world were you thinking, Robert Fick??
Big Jon Rauch picked up his 3rd win of the season tonight--now just one win short of his career high--four wins earned in 2006.
What a Surprise--"Teddy" lost again in The President's Race tonight--HIS 66th Straight loss. Maybe he needs a new trainer. Or some new prescription glasses. Or, maybe a new brain. As RallyTimeRichard always notes--"Teddy" has No Concept of what The Race is all about.
Every single time Adrian Gonzalez steps to the plate--he reminds me of Rafael Palmeiro. Despite the terrible steroid incident that ended his famed career--Rafael was a good player. One of my favorites. Gonzalez looks, swings and hits as well as Palmeiro did in his prime. Its just stunning that The Texas Rangers traded both Gonzalez, stud pitcher Chris Young and Sledge to San Diego for, basically--Mark Eaton. What in the world were The Rangers THINKING?? San Diego in a SLAM DUNK on that trade.
Section 320 was in Full Force Tonight--Mr & Mrs. MickNats, "The Noise Boys"--RallyTimeRichard, SeyHeyKlib & BangTheDrumNatly (did they EVER BRING IT STRONG!!) Andy & his Dad--Jim, Libby & Steve and, of course--The African Queen and myself. Screech QUITE PLEASED to see THE SECTION 320 Gang at their best. No group praises our mascot more than Section 320. "YOU THE BIRD!!" as SeyHeyKlib always yells. No one loves our adoration more than MY BEST FRIEND!!
A handful of Nationals Players wives were collecting can goods and dry packaged foods for charity tonight. The African Queen and I brought along some goods for donation. Erica Rauch (Jon's Wife) and their lovely baby daughter were handling Gate A alongside Tina Church. Sohna and I talked with both of them for some time. Both are familair with Section 320 and all our antics. Tina telling us that she loves our "Church on Wednesday!!" (or any other day) chant we do each and every time Ryan steps to the plate. Erica just a joy to speak with. Both ladies very kind to us tonight.
Finally--during the 3rd inning--Brian Oliver from The Nationals Farm Authority Blog was kind enough to stop by Section 320 to visit. We had never met. As I have said on many occasions--Brian covers all the Nationals Minor League and Draft details better than ANYONE. He is very knowledgeable and thorough. I was very pleased he stopped by.
As it turned out, while we were sitting on the steps near the tunnel to the left of Section 320--Team President Stan Kasten came by. We both started to talk with him. Brian asking Draft Questions, Scott Boros (The Agent) Questions--me asking about a few things. The most important being the fact that May 31, 2007 was the deadline for EVERY SINGLE MAJOR LEAGUE TEAM to officially request any UNIFORM CHANGES for 2008. Mr. Kasten told me that THERE WILL NOT BE MAJOR CHANGES. The Home and Away Uniforms will remain the same. In fact, he stated he considers the Home Uniform to be "A CLASSIC". But, for the opening of New Nationals Park--The Team will wear a new special Ballpark Patch on the right sleeve. The InGame Dugout Jacket will have a SLIGHT MODIFICATION. There will be a change to the Batting Practice Jersey. No specific details of that change though.
The Ticket Relocation Process will Kick Off next Wednesday. All 2008 Season and Partial Plan prices will be OFFICIALLY announced.
Tonight's InGame Photos--(AP) Nick Wass